Major League Baseball is once again teaming up with Autism Speaks, the world's leading autism science and advocacy organization, in a league-wide effort to recognize Autism Awareness Month. All 30 MLB Clubs will raise awareness for the disorder during one home game in April, or on another home date on their regular season schedule. Many of the MLB Autism Awareness games throughout the league will provide special opportunities and a safe, friendly environment for families and individuals affected by autism, allowing them to experience a game like never before. Additionally, a part of the proceeds from game ticket sales will go toward Autism Speaks' efforts to increase awareness, fund innovative autism research and family services, and advocate for the needs of individuals with autism and their families.
"Major League Baseball is proud to partner with Autism Speaks once again in order to raise awareness and support its mission of treating, preventing and curing autism," Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig said. "Many of our Clubs are longstanding supporters of the autism community. As we begin our new season, it is a privilege for our entire industry to stand together behind Autism Speaks and highlight their remarkable work."
Working with Autism Speaks or other autism awareness organizations, many Clubs will recognize local families during pre-game ceremonies. Additionally, in select ballparks, members of the autism community can enjoy the game from designated "Quiet Zones" with a sensory-friendly environment, as well as participate in various traditional baseball activities, including throwing out the first pitch, singing the National Anthem, announcing "Play Ball!," singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and performing "God Bless America." This year, Autism Speaks created a Guide to the Game, a visual story to help prepare children and adults with autism for a day at the ballpark by walking them through the full experience in detail ahead of time. The special accommodations enable many families affected by autism to attend their first Major League Baseball game.
"We are so grateful for Major League Baseball's league-wide support again this year," said Liz Feld, President, Autism Speaks. "Thanks to the wonderful work of each team's staff and volunteers, last year thousands of families from the autism community enjoyed a ballpark experience for the first time. The sensory friendly accommodations and the ability to participate in pre-game activities made it possible for our families to enjoy America's favorite pastime and watch their favorite team. We know our families will be thrilled to return to the ballpark this season."
The schedule of Club recognition dates is as follows:
- Miami Marlins - Friday, April 4th
- Oakland Athletics - Saturday, April 5th
- Pittsburgh Pirates - Sunday, April 6th
- San Diego Padres - Friday, April 11th
- Baltimore Orioles - Saturday, April 12th
- Milwaukee Brewers - Saturday, April 12th
- Cincinnati Reds - Sunday, April 13th
- Philadelphia Phillies - Monday, April 14th
- Texas Rangers - Wednesday, April 16th
- Detroit Tigers - Friday, April 18th
- Colorado Rockies - Saturday, April 19th
- Toronto Blue Jays - Thursday, April 24th
- Houston Astros - Saturday, April 26th
- Arizona Diamondbacks - Sunday, April 27th
- New York Mets - Sunday, April 27th
- Washington Nationals - Sunday, April 27th
- Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim - Monday, April 28th
- Boston Red Sox - Saturday, May 3rd
- Kansas City Royals - Sunday, May 4th
- Minnesota Twins - Sunday, May 18th
- San Francisco Giants - Tuesday, May 27th
- St. Louis Cardinals - Friday, May 30th
- Chicago White Sox - Saturday, May 31st
- Chicago Cubs - Wednesday, June 4th
- Tampa Bay Rays - Saturday, June 7th
- Atlanta Braves - Sunday, June 15th
- Los Angeles Dodgers - Tuesday, June 17th
- Cleveland Indians - Wednesday, June 18th
- Seattle Mariners - Sunday, July 13th
- New York Yankees - Saturday, August 9th
During the 2013 season, more than 30 Autism Awareness events took place in MLB ballparks, resulting in thousands of dollars from game ticket sales that went toward Autism Speaks' efforts to improve the lives of individuals with autism and their families.
Autism is a general term used to describe a group of complex developmental brain disorders - autism spectrum disorders - caused by a combination of genes and environmental influences. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by communication difficulties, social and behavioral challenges, as well as repetitive behaviors. An estimated one in 68 children in the U.S. is now on the autism spectrum - over a 78 percent increase in five years that is only partly explained by improved diagnosis.
For more information about MLB Autism Awareness and to check on respective Club dates commemorating the initiative, please visit MLBCommunity.org.